Most consumers wouldn’t put “renting a self-storage unit” at the top of their list of fun things to do. That’s why it can be a major advantage for facility operators to offer as much convenience as possible. Leveraging mobile-friendly technology is a terrific way to accomplish this, plus you get to reap other business rewards. Let’s dig into why mobile yields benefits for operators and tenants, plus a few considerations for using it.
Benefits for Tenants
The rise of digital retailers like Amazon has changed consumer focus to online shopping. Many people now prefer to click a “rent” button than visit a self-storage facility and talk to someone in person. Mobile helps you cater to these individuals by providing all the decision-making information they need in the palm of their hand.
Mobile can also increase account-management conveniences. Once a customer reserves a storage unit, he should have access to his account information directly from his phone. Figuring out a gate code or pulling up a copy of a rental agreement should never be a hassle.
Depending on the software you use, tenants can also pay their rent via mobile. The more payment options you provide, the more likely you’ll collect rent in a timely fashion.
Finally, mobile technology can be used to open facility gates and building doors. By adding another technology tool—a smart lock—tenants can even open their individual units with their phone. This makes it more convenient than ever to access their items.
From an operator perspective, mobile technology helps you stay on top of your business in several ways. First, consider the power of texting, which allows you to send automatic messages to tenants, such as upcoming bill reminders or late-payment alerts. People are more likely to open and interact with text messages than email. Studies indicate nearly 100 percent of text messages are opened vs. just 33 percent of emails.
Texts can work the other way, too. Depending on your facility-management software, you may be able to receive alerts if something averse occurs, such as a failed tenant credit card payment or a disruption at your gate.
Mobile tech also assists with remote management. For example, if a customer’s gate code suddenly stops working or a delivery driver needs access to your property, you can use an app to open the gate with the touch of a button. Your physical presence is no longer required.
A Question of Apps
There’s been a lot of discussion in the industry lately about how applicable mobile apps are in self-storage. The big question is, does your company need to build and offer one? Probably not. You don’t need a mobile app to provide mobile-based customer-service options. A much more cost-effective solution is to teach tenants how to bookmark your website to their phone’s home screen. This produces an app-like effect on their device, making it incredibly convenient to access your website and their account.
Consumers are overwhelmingly using their mobile devices to find local businesses, so your online presence and mobile capabilities are paramount. A responsive design ensures your website looks good and functions properly when crunched to the size of a phone or tablet. Users can quickly become frustrated with nonresponsive websites on which buttons are too small to click, or they have to scroll left to right to read text. This leads to bigger problems, because users “bouncing off” a site is a huge red flag to search engines, which dock your site when it occurs. Ultimately, this negatively impacts your search rankings. Don’t make the mistake of alienating more than half of your potential customers!
Search engines also use mobile design as a determining factor in search engine optimization, as it provides a better user experience. Google also now uses the mobile version of your site for indexing and ranking. To meet best practices for mobile indexing, don’t reduce the amount of content held on the mobile version of your site. In addition, make sure your site speed is up to par by optimizing images and videos for mobile.
Keep an Open Mind
Today’s consumers use the Internet and their phone to research and make purchases, and the evolution toward mobile will only continue. Going forward, convenience is king. Investing in mobile technology will improve your self-storage business exposure and accessibility. Not only will it increase your visibility to potential customers, it’ll make life substantially easier for you and your tenants.
Martha Anderson is a marketing account manager at Easy Storage Solutions, a provider of Web-based management software for small- to mid-sized self-storage operations. She works every day to help facility operators build visible websites with SEO in mind. She can be reached at www.linkedin.com/in/martha-m-anderson. For more information, call 888.958.5967.